This week, we once again visit with Yossef Schvetz. His adventures this time involve him on Moto Guzzi’s new 1100 Breva almost a decade ago. A former Guzzi owner himself, Schvetz shows some restraint when presented with the Big Breva, but turns out to be pleasantly surprised after learning more about it and spending some time in the saddle. So without further ado, here’s Yossef to tell you all about the 2005 Moto Guzzi Breva 1100. Also, don’t forget to visit the 3-page photo gallery for heaps more pictures.

2005 Moto Guzzi Breva

I must admit that I wasn’t expecting great things from the 1100 Breva. Although I rather enjoyed riding the 750 version almost two years ago, it was hard to deny that it was after all just a major face-lift job. 

Under the very nice bodywork, I could spot too many mechanical parts that looked exactly like those of my cursed 81′ V50 III of yore. A narrow rear tire, almost identical frame, same power unit and gearbox. OK, that’s what Aprilia managed to do in the very short time right after Guzzi’s acquisition, a nice upgrade but one that wasn’t going to resurrect Guzzi from the doldrums all by itself. Yep, something meatier was needed. When I saw the Breva 1100 prototype in Milan’s 2003 show, I could already spot a much deeper intervention, but who knew what would really reach production in the end?

Breva_1100_041I wasn’t expecting a revolution but it turns out that’s what I got. No less than 35 dedicated engineers have worked on the new Breva’s conception for the last two years and it shows. If there is one single piece that was carried over from the good old big-blocks, it’s the main crankcase casting which was renowned for its Kenworth truck-like robustness. This very casting ties the new Breva to the almost 40-year old tradition of transverse 90 degree V-twins.

A full list of all the new mechanical changes and innovations would be really long, so best stick to the major stuff. The one main prick, err… make it the two pricks spoiling the Guzzi riding experience, have always been those valve covers kissing your knees and not letting you grip the gas tank. If your height is above six feet, chances are that you’ll have to splay your legs in order to miss the valve covers or just sit back and suffer from an extra-long reach to the bars. Personally, I always preferred this small nuisance to smashing/skinning my shins over a boxer’s cylinder fins (an issue known only to folks over 6’4″ tall, I guess). In any case, by moving the alternator from the crankshaft’s end, to nestle in the V-shaped void between the cylinders, a good 1.75″ was chopped off the engine length, thus enabling its 1.75″ move forward. Hey presto! Here are 1.75″ of extra knee clearance for you.

Breva_1100_8935This engine placement also places more weight on the front wheel, improving steering response and stability as well as leaving room for a longer swingarm. With a longer swingarm in place, Gootsie engineers finally found room to install a proper progressive shock linkage. The lack of longitudinal real estate was the reason for the V11’s straight rate early Yamaha-monoshock style rear suspension and it’s always been a source of literal pain in the bum.

Between the swingarm and engine, you’ll find an all-new gearbox with improved shifting mechanism and a lowered output shaft. Even hardcore Guzzisti might not know this, but Mandello’s twins always had a 2.5° rearwards tilt, in order to “straighten” the kink in the drive shaft’s CV joint. With this new gearbox, the engine can be rotated to a fully erect position, shifting the CG further forward and freeing even more room for the rider’s knees.

Before we move away from the engine, it is worth noting that there are many other subtle changes. Double spark plug ignition, longer con-rods, shorter pistons, and an all-knew lubrication system with an external spin-on oil filter. Thing is, with all this fancy stuff thrown in, claimed HP for European models like the one I rode is very much the same as it was on the old 1997 V11: 86hp @ 7,500rpm, while max torque is down a bit and arrives at higher revs (8.5 kg/m @ 6,800).

engine_01So, what’s happening here? In 2006, the new Euro 3 emission standards will be imposed on Euroland, and Guzzi wanted to be fully ready for that. The Breva 1100 is actually the first big motorcycle sold in Europe that’s ready to pass these stringent standards and quite a lot of horses dropped dead by the roadside in order to stay within the limits. Interestingly enough, in the official US Guzzi site, claimed HP is up to 91, probably because of more relaxed emission requirements than the Euro 3. For once America gets the better deal!

The most visible bit of technical innovation must be the new torque reaction canceling system built into the swingarm. When I say built-in, I mean it. Unlike the V11 slightly agricultural solution of having the CV’s and drive shaft running exposed to the elements, the new CARC system fully integrates the floating bevel case necessary to cancel the gear’s torque reaction. From outside, it looks just like a normal single-sided drive shaft unit. Compared to BMW’s design with its two small bearings transferring all of the cornering and suspension loads from bevel case to swingarm, Guzzi’s patented solution seems much more rational and clean. Nice, very nice.

dis_02The Breva is also the first big Goose to use the engine/gearbox as a full load-bearing member (in the V11 it was used more as a stiffening element). The Breva’s frame is made out of straight tubing segments that create a few basic and stiff triangles. The engine and gearbox tie up and close the main open triangle. From a side view, the Breva’s frame looks rational, light and above all, modern. Another frame related first for Guzzi, is the use of silent blocks in the front engine mounts that absorb the very few vibes that a 90° twin emits in the first place, without compromising frame stiffness, as I was to learn. It’s mainly on the cycle side of things that you perceive that the engineers worked in close cooperation with the designers. A fine aesthetic touch can be found even in rather mechanical items such as the dedicated fork sliders that include an aerodynamic apron where they meet the front wing. Ditto for the beautiful footpeg hangers & brackets, which show a fine marriage of style and function.

Since we’re talking `bout design, the lion’s share of the work was carried out by the “Marabesse Design” studio, a consultancy that worked in the past on the V11 and Centauro. Although those models are far from being my cup of tea design wise, with the Breva 1100 they did a really good job and the result is as sweet as the riding. Under the scrutinizing eyes of Signore Frison, Aprilia’s design guru, the Marabesse team worked hard and achieved an impressive result. It’s a modern classic with plenty of nice and surprising touches and good overall proportions. As I said before, a loving hand can be seen on so many details; the instrument cluster and the beautiful rear wheel casting come up as good examples while no off-the-shelf components were spotted. There is quality paint, good matching between panels, and nice chrome accents.

In the short presentation done for us journos, Guzzi showed us some nice market research PowerPoint slides and nobody was surprised to find out that BMW’s R1150R was the main target in Guzzi’s sights. “Naked” bikes are the fastest growing segment: in Europe, accounting for 30% of all motorcycle sales and Guzzi management decided to concentrate on the Sport-Touring niche. Rather than trying to compete with brute force nakeds such as the Speed Triple or S4R Duc, the Breva was conceived to be much more touring/fun oriented. Comfy yet quite sporty indeed, the Breva has an R1150R air about it.

It’s naked indeed but with well sorted out solutions for mounting a full set of hard luggage, two big seats and spacious ergos. A tool that will be good for long-range touring and not just short ‘n sporty weekend jaunts. A good identification in my humble opinion as tools such as the 919, Z1000, TNT and Tuono are somewhat lacking in creature comforts. For those wanting a more extreme tool, I have some news too. Guzzi plans to give you a sharp streetfighter: wait for the scoopie at the end!

Speaking of Brevas

Every time engineers make sweeping, dramatic changes in a bike model there will always be a strong faction of holdouts from the previous incarnation. Sometimes these loyalists will be abnormally devoted to their model-year choice claiming that unless the bike was changed for safety reasons, they (the engineers) should have left it alone. Others are less dramatic in their devotion and simply like the bike they have, seeing no particular need to run out to the dealer to purchase the latest and greatest, even if the improvements are substantial. MotoGuzzi devotees are no different than any other Italian bike lover.

A would be new bike purchaser can capitalize on the feeding frenzy brought on by new model changes and the subsequent glut by buying “last year’s model.” If you’re of this mindset then you’ll be aware that the Breva 750 IE may be still be occupying floor space. Fellow Moron, motor journalist, friend of MO and most importantly, a Guzzisti, Alice Sexton, recently loaded up a 2004 Breva and set out on her twelfth cross country trip to the 34th Annual MotoGuzzi National Rally (May 26-29). This event was somber as the host for the past 26 years, Bucky Bush, was previously killed when he ran a stop light. In his honor this year’s event was a tribute to him and rumored to be the last. Nevertheless, Alice made the ride, gave some impressions of the bike and logged (or blogged) her adventures. Read some of her thoughts below from her weblog.

Final Day: Moto Guzzi National Rally, New Cumberland, WV
After riding clear across the country and miraculously not hitting one lick of rain, today it was pouring. Figures. Those of us who’ve been coming to this rally over the years can count on one hand the times it DIDN’T rain, and of course we huddled together in our rain suits and talked about just that. “Hey remember the year it was so stinking hot?”, “What about the year of the flood?” Guzzi riders are a hardcore bunch; standing around in mud up to our valve stems with rain drizzling down, talking bikes and rides is just what we do. Ain’t no thang.We’re also a very small group. Guzzis don’t appeal to everyone; so we’re either an extremely elite club or a handful of hardheaded weirdos, take your pick? probably a bit of both, I’d say. There’s no way to describe seeing folks I hadn’t really been in touch with since I moved to the left coast. My friends Cathy and Dave Blake are now grandparents three times over. The ‘Lemans Parking Lot’ I’d organized 10 years ago is still holding strong, although not everyone was still riding Lemans’. Barb Nowell was riding her Brutale, Dave Dilworth was on a Convert, and his son Will was now riding his own bike, an MZ. There was a touch of sadness to the rally as we remembered Buck Bush, each in our own way.

Farewell Bucky Bush and the West Virginia Big Country Rally. It was a grand run.

“The Breva V750 is a terrific all-round bike. For my taste, it meets all the requirements of a fun ride: it’s exotic and Italian, it’s a v-twin, it’s light and nimble, has a comfortable seating position for touring and comes with optional hard bags and touring windscreen. It’s sporty enough for peg-scraping, handles well on all road surfaces–including dirt–and can run all day long in top gear with the optimistic speedo reading 100 mph. All the while consistently getting upward of 50 mpg. One of the most appealing aspects is that the Breva comes with the option of a low profile seat for the vertically challenged! The only drawbacks I could find are that it is quite fussy about it’s break-in miles and oil consumption. Additionally, I experienced a consistent weave when negotiating high-speed sweeping turns, but you shouldn’t be going that fast on the street anyway!”

“The Breva handles well through the sweepers fully loaded with gear, running in top gear right up to 7K for hours at a time.” [MSRP: $7,990]

Alice Sexton has worked as a design and editorial professional for the past twenty five years and has been riding motorcycles for the last seventeen. She is currently National President of the Women’s International Motorcyclist Association – USA Division (WIMAUSA) and on the planning committee for the 2006 AMA International Woman and Motorcycling Conference. She has been a contributor to Road Racing World magazine and Motorcyclist magazine. Alice commutes to work daily in Los Angeles on a 2000 Suzuki SV650, races a 1987 Cagiva Allazzura with WSMC, and takes her 1978 Moto Guzzi 850 Lemans for touring and weekend rides.

Even starting up the Breva is a new experience. A short dab on the button and the whole starting procedure is controlled by the engine management system, spinning the engine till it “catches”. No need to blip the gas or anything, the big twin settles down into a familiar slow idle immediately. While letting the engine warm up, I can’t help but notice the extra real estate freed by all the aforementioned changes. There is plenty of space for biggies with high lard factor, the tall and wide handlebars let you sit erect yet relaxed, almost as if you were atop some big trailie.
Lowering my foot off the left peg, I mistakenly caress the gear lever with my boot and boom! First gear simply snicked in, effortlessly! What? In a Guzzi? In the first few miles it’s indeed the buttery gear lever action that rivets my attention and you have to experience it to believe it. Who said that shafties with engine speed clutch should have stiff and clunky gear shifting? This new gearbox puts to shame BMW’s and Honda’s with its greasy and effortless shifting.

Breva_1100_019This is only the first of shocks. The second shock arrives by courtesy of the scooter- like steering. As we are leaving Mandello, we tackle some roundabouts with the required quick right-left-right shifts in lean and all I want to do is rub my eyes through the visor in disbelief. Where have the 500 pounds or so of this Breva disappeared all of the sudden? Something here defies logic. OK, a modern 25.5 rake angle goes some ways to explain the issue but I suspect that the main secret behind the Breva’s agility is called: Aprilia.

Francesco Pellizon, Aprilia’s chief road tester and the guy responsible for the RSV’s sublime leaning manners was involved with the Breva’s development and his touch can be felt. On our way to the shooting location in Lecco we hop on a highway stretch along the lake and within a few fast sweepers you can feel that this steering quickness does not translate into nervousness at high speeds. When the traffic does slow down in downtown Lecco, the fatiguing operation of Guzzis of yore (V11 included) fades into a memory. The smooth gear changing is just part of the story. Although the clutch is still a dry, two-plate affair, pick up on release is super smooth, and effort at the lever low. Repetitive U-turns for passes in front the photographers are carried out without any drama or foot paddling. The Breva’s mill has a really nice pull from down low and take off from full stop is utterly easy. Before taking our lunch break, the only negative mental note is the jerky transition in on-off throttle situation at low speeds that’s compounded by some driveline backlash.

Breva_1100_005We pull back to Mandello too late for lunching in a restaurant (Italian eating times are holy) so we are lead into the factory worker’s dinning room. Some experience! The Breva might represent the new spirit in Guzzi yet this factory could serve as a perfect shooting location for a 50’s neo-realist Italian drama by De Sica, just as it is, no dressing needed. It’ll be interesting to see for how much longer this amazing and nostalgic setting will survive under the new hard-headed Piaggio management (Guzzi were a part of the deal in Aprilia’s recent acquisition by Piaggio).

A shot of espresso and we are out again, this time with a good old factory road tester leading us. I’ve rode with him in the Breva 750’s launch and this guy, who must be approaching pensioning age, knows the roads round here like the back     of his hand and likes to keep it WOT most of the time. A short Autostrada stretch sees the Breva climbing with ease to 100-110 MPH, it’s just that with nakeds being nakeds, it’s a bit useless pushing beyond that. It’s then when you notice that although the handlebars are rather high, it’s still a long stretch to them so you end up riding with your elbows almost straight. So on one hand it prevents you from tucking down, but on the other hand, it lets you counter the wind pressure quite easily.

Breva_1100_9077The support of the wide seat is very good and comfy; Guzzi claims to have installed a special gel insert in there. Although in theory a 90-degree V-twin should have perfect primary balance, the sharp spikes that the V11 would send through the handlebars at certain engine speeds are all too fresh in my memory. There are none of these on the Breva, nada. If there is buzz in the handlebars, it might be described as some light burbling that only serves to remind you that you are straddling a V-twin and not a in line four or a boxer (god forbid). In any case, at 90 and change, the engine settles down to a lazy 5,000rpm and the touring side of this naked Breva becomes evident. But there’s more to it.

To the twisties then, time to clean the whole width of the tire’s treads; handing back a test bike with dusty tire edges equals bad table manners. Our leader knows every twist and turn and he can be really trusted when diving into fast and blind corners. Under higher pressure, the Breva remains surrealistically quick for an 1100cc twin that has its roots in 1972. This super quick steering is supported by very nicely calibrated suspension and it’s only when really pushing it that I would like to add a click or two of rebound to the rear strut (which is the only hydraulic adjustment that you can do in fact). In the slow and twisty, with plenty of braking and down shifting while setting up     for turns, the CARC system manages to keep the rear wheel well planted without much chirping. Similar antics on my old 850 LMIII would mean major drama unless accompanied by copious throttle blipping on an every downshift.

Breva_1100_9415While tilted hard, the Breva sits very well on the Z6 Metzelers (a lovely sport touring tire BTW) but personally, I would trade some of that steering quickness for some more front-end feedback. As you might guess by now, Mr. Tester and I are pushing beyond the Breva’s planned flying envelope. At high lean angles, the center stand will drag on the left and the peg feeler on the right, but you really have to be trying. If there is something that leaves me a bit disappointed in the Breva 1100, it’s the relative lack of mid range pull, like at 4,000 RPM when powering out of turns. It seems like top end HP remains the same, it’s the mid range that has been scarified somewhat in the name of that Euro 3 thing, and the closeness of the torque and HP peaks hint at a high state of tune. While rolling fast you do find out that the 1100 mill actually likes to be revved and beyond 5,000rpm pull gets really strong. As soon as you learn to rev the thing the Breva does fly rather nicely and there is a satisfying power crescendo from 7,000rpm up to rev limiter.

While playing on this type of slow-medium speed roads, other points shine. The Brembos, although not being top-shelf items are strong and sensitive while the rear end setup swallows up the road imperfections very effectively. Gee, how many years did we, the Guzzisti, wait for such a nice rear suspension? It’s progressive and comfy yet not too soft.

Up front, the fork copes well with hard braking. Though only preload is adjustable it’s really fine as it is. On the back, there’s a practical and accessible remote preload control knob and a rebound adjustment screw. With all due respect to the CARC system’s performance, you still have to keep in mind that there is considerable unsprung weight down there. On certain combinations of bumps with sharp throttle and steering inputs, you might notice some stepping out. Just remind yourself that this is a sporty naked tourer with a shaft after all.

Breva_1100_9238We take a break in a deserted parking lot in a small village and without us asking Mister Tester proceeds to perform some impressive burnouts and wheelies, as if to prove to us the beefiness of the new setup. In the meantime, the clouds that have been looming above seem darker than ever; time for a last quick decent down. This last downhill stretch is really mental, quick and fast left-right-left-rights yet the Breva isn’t really fazed, like Dumbo, it can gracefully pull some high G’s if need. By the end of the descent, I feel like kicking myself for not mounting the onboard camera until we are on a rather slow stretch.

Back in the factory and without the scrutinizing eyes of Stefania, Guzzi’s cute PR officer, our tester brings us into one of the production halls to sip a last espresso next to a CNC machine milling cylinder heads. I can’t help but comment to our guide about the Breva’s quick steering. “This is nothing!” he says, “The new Grisso, now that one really handles!”. The Grisso? Isn’t that supposed to be a power cruiser? “Power cruiser, power schmoozer, don’t know about these things, I only test them and that one really kicks ass, wait till you ride one!”

So you don’t have to be Einstein to realize that this new Breva shows the way of things to come from Guzzi. It’s easy to imagine this thing wearing full touring fairing and becoming an Italian RS or RT of sorts. Who knows, maybe even an Italian GS! But I must confess that I didn’t think that the Grisso was meant to be such a sporty streetfighter (assuming the hype is true). And then there is the MGS 01. What about fitting the 120hp four valver of the MGS in this frame? Yes, there is hope for the hard cord Guzzi believers.

Guzzi ownership was until now like eating raw cocoa. Tasty yet bitter, you really had to dig it; hardly everybody’s cup of tea. With this new Breva, you don’t have to be an eccentric type to enjoy Gootsy-ing anymore. Some might say that some character was lost; one journo riding with us even added that this Breva might be a sort of 1,100cc beginner’s bike with its ease of use. Maybe, as an aging Guzzi lover, I rather liked this newfound sweetness. Very much so.

** Specs by Moto Guzzi **
Engine: 90° V-Twin, 4 stroke
Cooling system: Air-cooled
Displacement: 1064 cc
Bore and stroke: 92 mm x 80 mm
Compression ratio: 9.8:1
Valves & operation: 2 overhead valves with light alloy push-rods
Maximum power: 91 hp @ 7800 rpm
Maximum torque: 70 ft/lbs. @ 6000 rpm
Fuel system: Weber- Marelli electronic injection with stepper motor
Starting system: Electric
Ignition: Magneti Marelli IAW electronic digital ignition with twin spark
Exhaust system: Triple catalyzed with Lambda probe
Gear box: 6 speed
Lubrication: Wet sump, forced oil, cartridge filter
Transmission: Primary: helical gears
Secondary: Cardano Reattivo; double universal joint with 9/33-ratio floating bevel gear
Clutch: Dry
Electrical system: 12 V; 12 V-540 W alternator; 12 Ah battery
Instruments: Active matrix LCD display with speedometer with tripmeter, tachometer and warning lights
Frame: Detachable tubular duplex cradle
Trail: 4.7″ (120 mm)
Rake: 25°
Front suspension: 43 mm fork, preload adjustable
Front wheel travel: 4.7″ (120 mm)
Rear suspension: Single sided swing arm suspension with progressive linkage; rear mono shock, hydraulic adjustable rebound and pre-load
Rear wheel travel: 5.5″ (140 mm)
Front brakes: Double stainless steel, 320 mm floating disc with 4-piston caliper
Rear brakes: Single stainless steel 282 mm disc with 2-piston caliper
Wheels: Three spoke alloy
Front: 3.5″ x 17″ Rear: 5.5″ x 17″
Tires: Front: 120/70 17″ Rear: 180/55 17″
Overall length: 83.85″ (2130 mm)
Width: 31.88″(810 mm)
Height: 51.57″ (1310 mm)
Seat Height: 31.49″ (800 mm)
Ground clearance: 7.28″ (185 mm)
Wheelbase: 58.66″ (1490 mm)
*Claimed* Dry weight: 513.67 lbs. (233 Kg)
Fuel capacity: 6.34 gallons (24 liters)
Reserve: 1.05 gallons (4 liters)
Available Colors: Red, Grey, or Black
Availability: Summer 2005
MSRP: $11,990
  • TalonMech

    Always wanted a Breva or its later sibling the 1200 Sport. But the sparse dealer network in the USA made it seem too risky. I rode a used 1200 Sport and really enjoyed the bike. Too bad Guzzi can’t get a better foothold here. I’m not the only one scared away by nightmares of a 4 hour haul to the nearest dealer for a warranty claim.

  • angrytaxpayer123

    Guzzi owners are an independent lot, but yes, if having a dealer in the neighborhood is important to you this ain’t your brand.